Rabbi Manis, the Maggid

Rabbi Manis lived in the city before Rabbi Eliezer Shalom Fiitrikobr, so called because he later became the Rabbi of multi Fiitrikobr. At the time – the municipal synagogue was built of wood. The Beit Midrash, on the other hand, was already built of bricks and stood in the place where the community office is now located.

The city’s Maggid, Rabbi Manis, spent day and night in this Beit Midrash. He was a great scholar and a very poor man as well. He received a salary of 80 piasters per week for his sermons. His salary was paid in groceries. He got bread from the baker, and in the grocery store he got buckwheat and candles.

In addition to the speeches he gave in public, he also wrote novellae in the Torah. He had no money to buy paper, so he used all sorts of scraps of paper, in which the shopkeepers wrapped the goods for shoppers. These novellae, handwritten, were preserved by the grandson of Rabbi Manis – Rabbi Asher Gedalyahu Goldberg. Together with them were Rabbi Manis’ bills for living expenses. If his expenses exceeded 80 piasters, he tried to balance the “debit balance” by fasting. He fasted a lot and often even fasted from Shabbat to Shabbat.

In spite of his great poverty, Rabbi Manis made sure that at the Sabbath meal fish would be served at his table. Buying fish for Sabbath was not as easy as today. In those days there were two innkeepers in the town who sold boiled fish for five or ten piasters per serving. But not everyone could afford such luxuries.

One of the hostels was owned by Atka Kawa, mother of the future public activist, Rachel Atkes. R. Manis used to buy Sabbath fish for five piasters. But Atka wanted R. Manis to eat the fish free of charge, and thus gain Mitzos. Every Friday she would send a piece of fish with her daughter Rachel, a young girl at the time. Not easily did young Rachel persuade Rabbi Manis to accept this gift, and every time she brought the fish he would bless her.

Many people believed that Manis was gifted with the Holy Spirit. When he met a Jew, he immediately saw his soul. Jews said that the Magid of Lublin was critical of Rabbi Manis, and he wished his fortune that the Holy Spirit will be evident to all, and all he knows, he could not hold within himself.

Although R’ Manis was a strong opponent, and Opponents and Hasidim had many major disputes, he nevertheless was very friendly with one of the famous Hasidic figures in Siedlce – Rabbi Kalman Arles. The Hasidim spoke in praise of him. For example, they told that once the old Rabbi of Kotzek passed through Siedlce. As he passed through Warsaw Street, he left the wagon and entered the Beit Midrash for a few minutes. R. Manis was absorbed in a difficult issue and did not notice the guest. Later, when the Rebbe had already left, R. Manis recovered and said:

“There is some fire in the Beit Midrash, there was a great man here!”

When he began to investigate who the visitor was, and learned that it was Rabbi Mendel of Kotzek, he immediately left the study and ran out of the city to catch up with the Rebbe’s wagon and greeted him.

Manis died in Siedlce on Tktz”h and is buried in the new cemetery. Inscription on the tombstone shows that before he became a Maggid in Siedlce he was a Rabbi in Ostrow.

Written by Yitzhak Nahum Weintraub in the book: “Ancestors Tell Siedlce”.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano